Hiring Workers with Disabilities in Ontario

The Government of Ontario is looking for ways to improve unemployment rates among people with disabilities. Current statistics indicate that Ontario’s average is two times that of national and provincial figures. To address this issue, the province has introduced an employment strategy to encourage businesses to hire at least one individual that self-identifies as having a disability.

Today, 1 in 7 people are living with a disability and many of these individuals remain unemployed because of their physical and/or mental employment barriers. Despite being well-educated and highly motivated, these people are consistently denied employment from a young age. In a recent call for action, the Government of Ontario is requesting that businesses with 20+ employees commit to hiring workers with disabilities to tackle unemployment rates.

To accommodate the government’s request, small and medium-sized businesses can access grants and loans to offset the cost of hiring and training new employees, including workers with disabilities. Ontario government funding makes it easier for businesses to create new jobs and invest in workforce development initiatives.

Hiring Workers with Disabilities to Address Ontario’s High Unemployment Rates

Disabilities come in many forms, including physical or mental ailments related to mobility, sight, hearing, learning, dexterity, pain, development, and psychological disorders. Over 15% of Ontario’s population identifies as fitting one or more of those categories.

Hiring an individual with a disability may seem like a risk to some business owners, however, employers are forgetting to see the ‘able’ within the word disabled.

Statistics Canada recently reported that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is more than double the national average. To address this issue, the government is asking all businesses with more than 20 employees to hire at least one additional person with a disability.

In June 2017, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-tier employment strategy to improve unemployment rates among the province’s disabled community. The strategy’s main objectives will include:

  1. Developing additional employment opportunities for disabled youth;
  2. Integrating and co-ordinating employment services by taking more of a supported employment approach;
  3. Ensuring the Government of Ontario takes a proactive role in hiring disabled workers; and
  4. Accommodate Ontario’s growing population.

If successful, the strategy could create 56,000 new jobs and reduce the number of unemployed Ontarians with a disability by 30%.

Access Government Funding to Offset the Cost of Hiring Workers with Disabilities

To make it easier for employers to get on-board with the new strategy, the Government of Ontario offers funding for hiring to help businesses reduce the cost of expanding their workforce. Currently, there are two funding programs specifically designed to help offset the cost of hiring Ontarians with disabilities:

  • Option 1: Receive up to 50% coverage of employee wages to a maximum $13,500 in Ontario government grants for 3 to 9 months; or
  • Option 2: Access up to $20,000 to offset salary and specialized training of employees for up to 12 weeks OR up to 90% coverage assistive devices, specialized training, and assessments to a maximum of $3,000 per application.

Interested businesses may contact Mentor Works to learn more about either of these hiring grants and determine whether their business is eligible to apply for government funding.

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Companies That Hire Disabled Workers Can Leverage Funding for Training

The Canada-Ontario Job Grant also provides training grants to help employers invest in workforce development initiatives. This program is available for both training to assist employees with disabilities and to improve the employability of a business’ workforce. Eligible businesses can access Ontario government funding to enhance their labour force by upskilling and educating new/existing employees. Ontario small business grants can be used to offset third-party training programs that lead to operational and productivity improvements.

Eligible employers can access up to 50%-83% of eligible training costs to a maximum $10,000 in Ontario government grants per trainee.

How to Apply for Funding

To get started with COJG, businesses must submit an application package that includes a company overview, detailed training plans, training impacts, and vendor quotes. Within the application, businesses must identify all trainees by name and how the training will impact their role within the company. Typically, applications are reviewed and approved within 2-4 weeks.

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Learn More About Government Funding Opportunities for Your Business

Business grants and loans help accelerate the growth and development of companies across Ontario. By staying up-to-date on current government funding programs, businesses can ensure they never miss an opportunity to leverage funding for their strategic projects.

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Written by

Katlynd Poulton holds an Honours Bachelor of Public Relations with Distinction at Conestoga College. She believes in the power of communication and how it can fuel business success. As Mentor Works' Online Marketing Intern, Katlynd engages with business owners and executives through social platforms. ​​​​​​

Comments 20

5 June 2018 Reply

Who could I contact about getting help
I am a disabled worker

6 June 2018 Reply

Hi Wayne,

The support mentioned in this article is for employers to hire workers with a self-identified disability. If you mention this program to potential employers, they can apply for funding and hire you. This can give you an advantage over other candidates.

21 June 2018 Reply

Hi There,

I live in British Columbia, and want to start a not-for-profit business that exclusively hires deaf and disabled people to help ease them into the working world. I am not disabled myself.
Is there any funding/grants available to help me start this business? I am having a hard time in my research, as most grants are for disabled people starting a business.
Thanks for your help.

22 June 2018 Reply

Hi Jessica, while there is limited funding available to help start a non-profit, there may be potential for you to access funding specifically for hiring people with disabilities once the organization is running. Until you’ve become a registered non-profit and are ready to hire an employee, it will be difficult to secure government-based funding programs.

22 June 2018 Reply

HI Jeff, Thanks for your reply. Would it be better to register as a for-profit business? Would you be able to point me in the right direction to apply for this funding?
Thanks for your help!

7 April 2019 Reply

Hi, that’s weird. I posted a question on here, but it seems to have disappeared. I was asking if a private members golf club that I’m working for, though a non-profit, could qualify for funding or a disability worker grant, since I qualify as disabled and they have made accommodations to keep me on.


8 April 2019 Reply

Hi LC, unfortunately government funding is not available to support current employees such as yourself. These incentives are designed to help employers overcome barriers to employing people with disabilities and recruit new workers. Since you’re already on payroll, your employer is no longer eligible to receive funding.

12 April 2019 Reply

Is the funding finished for this year? I work at a group home for men with brain injury and have a young man that wants to start working. I also own a company that has a contract with a large company that has ladies clothing stores.
I would love to hire him to help me but I was worried if he got hurt. Is there help for insurance coverage too?

15 April 2019 Reply

Hi Ken, unfortunately funding for that program is no longer available. We’re looking for towards the provincial government’s upcoming Fall Fiscal Update to release information on new and continued funding programs, so there may be a similar funding option available then. If you would like to discuss potential grants and loans to help you in other areas, please contact Mentor Works.

31 August 2019 Reply

Would like to hire someone on UDSB that has seizures.
Would I be protected against any wsib claims or will I be liable if trying to help someone who is disabled.
Seems to me like employers should have protection if trying to help someone out

3 September 2019 Reply

Hello Josh,

Thank you for reaching out with this question. As it turns out this program no longer has an active intake of applications. I cannot speak to how future programs like this will be run, however, it may be a good idea to connect with WSIB through one of their channels here to discuss how taking on someone who is disabled can impact your business.

If you would like to explore hiring for your team in the current funding landscape, I would invite you to connect with a member of our team here.

20 June 2019 Reply

Is there training available for employers and fellow employees, who wish to hire a disabled worker

20 June 2019 Reply

Hello Dan, thanks for your comment. While there may be some opportunities to access funding for training, you may also be interested in learning more about grants to hire the disabled worker. I’ve asked a colleague of mine to follow-up with you directly. Please expect an email within the next 1-2 business days!

24 July 2019 Reply

Hi there,

Are there grants in Ontario for employers to hire a person with a disability?

25 July 2019 Reply

Hello Lisa,

The government in the past has released several hiring programs that look for ways to improve unemployment rates among people with disabilities, structured much like what is outlined in one of our earlier blogs here. These programs will hopefully make their return in the near future. In the interim our best strategy is would be to explore any other hiring programs that can potentially support you with this role now. Feel free to fill out one of our contact forms here and we can have someone connect with you to go over the role and its fit for funding in some more detail together.

20 August 2019 Reply

Hi, I am a disabled person looking to start a small business. In the past there was something called the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities that I was able to get funding from for a different business that has ceased operation. I don’t see active internet information on funding from that program or any others right now. Is there anything at all provincially or federally you can point me to?

20 August 2019 Reply

Hello Mike,

Thank you for reaching out to us with this question. As it turns out Mentor Works specializes in working with established companies secure funding to grow their business in multiple ways, ranging from hiring, to export development, to research, and much more. There are some amazing resources out there for persons looking to start their own business that are currently outside of our specialty area. We have a list of resources for Canadian Startup businesses listed on our website here, which is the perfect place to start.

When it comes to the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities the program was more-so geared towards established businesses hiring persons with disabilities and may not have been a fit for a business owner starting their own business. The program has run its course and is not currently accepting applications. We hope to see a wonderful program like this be released again in the future.

22 August 2019 Reply

Thanks so much.

10 June 2020 Reply

Hello Madam/Sir,
I am on long term disability, I was a laboratory chemist in current job. I can’t do this job any more due to my disability, because this job has so much limitation for me like , Smell sensitivity to chemical, hectic and panic experimental conditions. I am also qualified for Regulatory Affairs job but this job has higher status than my current job.
is it possible to get this job being a disable person to current job, how my current employer and insurance company help ?
is it possible to my current employer to hire me for Regulatory affairs job? being a disable person.
Do I have any government support to setup Regulatory Affairs business?

is there any support to setup business or get the new job in regulatory affairs by government .
how to proceed.
Thanks a lot
looking forward to your help

with kind regards

Brampton, Ontario, Canada

10 June 2020 Reply

Hi, thank you for your question. I would recommend consulting with your employer directly to see if there are employment opportunities there. Funding through this program is no longer available, however you can follow our Funding Newsletter for the latest funding updates, as new funding initiatives launch regularly and some might be relevant to your situation. All the best.

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